United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO REMAND
DOCKET NO. 17
M. CHEN United States District Judge.
William Brown filed the instant action in state court against
Chipotle Mexican Grill, alleging, inter alia, that
Chipotle harassed Plaintiff “through severe and
pervasive slurs” and terminated Plaintiff after
Plaintiff opposed and complained about the “alleged
discrimination/retaliation/harassment and illegal
conduct.” Docket No. 1-1, Compl. ¶¶ 12, 14.
Plaintiff asserted fourteen causes of action. Compl. at 6-14.
Chipotle subsequently removed the case to federal court.
Docket No. 1 (Not. of Removal). Currently pending before the
Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Remand the case to the
Superior Court of Alameda County. Docket No. 17
action arises out of Plaintiff's termination from
Chipotle. Compl. ¶ 16. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant
failed to allow him 10 minute rest breaks every four hours
and 30 minute meal periods every five hours. Id.
¶ 9. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants'
employees harassed Plaintiff through severe and pervasive
slurs, propositions, and insults. Id. ¶ 12.
After Plaintiff complained, Defendant subjected Plaintiff to
a series of adverse employment actions and terminated
Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 16.
filed this action in the California Superior Court of Alameda
County on November 5, 2015, alleging claims under the
California Labor Code and California Fair Employment and
Housing Act (FEHA). Chipotle was served with the Complaint on
December 11, 2015, and removed the action on January 11, 2016
on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. Not. of Removal at
Standard of Review
in this case is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1332, or
diversity jurisdiction. In order for this Court to have
jurisdiction, there must be complete diversity between the
parties - which the parties do not dispute exists in the
instant case - and the amount in controversy must exceed $75,
000. “The party invoking the removal statute bears the
burden of establishing federal jurisdiction. Furthermore, the
removal statute is strictly construed against removal
jurisdiction.” Ethridge v. Harbor House Rest.,
861 F.2d 1389, 1393 (9th Cir. 1988). “Federal
jurisdiction must be rejected if there is any doubt as to the
right of removal in the first instance.” Gaus v.
Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992).
“Where it is not facially evident from the complaint
that more than $75, 000 is in controversy, the removing party
must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the
amount in controversy meets the jurisdictional
threshold.” Matheson v. Progressive Specialty Ins.
Co., 319 F.3d 1089, 1090 (9th Cir. 2003). In order to
satisfy its burden, a defendant must “provide
evidence establishing that it is „more likely
than not' that the amount in controversy exceeds that
amount.” Valdez v. Allstate Ins. Co., 372 F.3d
1115, 1117 (9th Cir. 2004) (quoting Sanchez v. Monumental
Life Ins. Co., 102 F.3d 398, 404 (9th Cir. 1996))
(emphasis added). Further, a speculative argument as to the
amount in controversy is insufficient to satisfy the
jurisdictional requirement. Gaus, 980 F.2d at 567;
see also Matheson, 319 F.3d at 1090-91
(“Conclusory allegations as to the amount in
controversy are insufficient.”).
The Court is Remanding the Case Because Chipotle Has Not
Satisfied Its Burden of Proof
parties dispute whether this Court has jurisdiction to hear
this case based on diversity jurisdiction as the parties
dispute whether the amount in controversy exceeds the
jurisdictional minimum of $75, 000. Plaintiff asserts
fourteen causes of action against Chipotle: (1) failure to
pay timely earned wages upon termination from employment; (2)
failure to furnish accurate payroll records; (3) unfair
competition; (4) wrongful termination in violation of public
policy; (5) violation of labor code s. 1102.5; (6) violation
of labor code s. 6310; (7) discrimination in violation of
fair employment and housing act (“FEHA”); (8)
failure to prevent discrimination in violation of FEHA; (9)
harassment in violation of FEHA; (10) failure to prevent
harassment in violation of FEHA; (11) retaliation in
violation of FEHA; (12) violation of the California Family
Rights Act (“CFRA”); (13) failure to engage in
the interactive process and provide reasonable accommodation;
(14) failure to comply with meal/rest period requirements.
Compl. at 6-14.
seeks payment of all statutory obligations and penalties as
required by law; for penalties, special damages,
compensatory, and general damages in an amount to be proven
at trial; for reasonable attorneys' fees; for loss of
income incurred; and other relief. Compl. at 13-14.
contends Chipotle has not satisfied its burden in showing
that Plaintiff's claim exceeds $75, 000 because Chipotle
has not proven by a preponderance of evidence that the
controversy exceeds the diversity jurisdiction threshold of
$75, 000. MTR at 4. In response, Chipotle argues that
Plaintiff's claim for punitive damages and emotional
distress will satisfy the jurisdictional minimum of $75, 000.
MTR at 4-5.
instant case, the Court finds that Chipotle has failed to
satisfy its burden that the amount in controversy has been
met. First, Chipotle's estimate that the lost wages would
amount to over $38, 000 is speculative. In the Notice of
Removal, Chipotle estimates that based on Plaintiff's
base salary of $9.25 per hour, Plaintiff's damages for
lost wages from November 7, 2014 (when Plaintiff was
terminated) through the date of removal would be in excess of
$20, 000. NOR at ¶ 32. Further, if the case was to be
resolved at trial by January 2017, “Plaintiff's
unmitigated lost wages could amount to over $38, 000.”
Id. This calculation appears to assume that
Plaintiff worked 40 hours per week every week; however,
Chipotle does not produce any evidence that Plaintiff did
have such a work schedule when employed by Chipotle.
Compare with Archibold v. Time Warner Cable, Inc.,
Case No. CV 15-1776 FMO (JPRx), 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 68578,
at *5-6 (C.D. Cal. May 27, 2015) (rejecting the
defendant's calculation of damages where the defendant
used the plaintiff's hourly rate of $21.64 to calculate
$82, 000 in lost wages, but did not provide any evidence as
to the basis for its calculations, ...